Studio MDHR's action game has landed in animated form, and we've checked out the first season.
As has been the case for Cuphead's anticipated The Delicious Last Course DLC, it's really felt as though we've been waiting for The Cuphead Show to officially debut for aeons. There's a good reason for this, as similar to video games, TV series and movies take a long time to create, but that wait is now over, at least for the latter, as The Cuphead Show's first season has landed on Netflix, and with it, Cuphead and Mugman have a new platform to conquer.
This series is based on Studio MDHR's challenging run and gun action game, and is set on the Inkwell Isle, and follows the adventures of the brothers, Cuphead and Mugman. It uses a similar art style and is animated to reflect that of a 1930s cartoon, and this part in particular is an absolute highlight. The way the show is presented is timeless and brilliant, and it makes you reminisce and hope that this style of animation makes a comeback at some point, because it really is astoundingly beautiful.
The storyline on the other hand differs from traditional cartoons as there is an aspect of progression to it. What I mean by this is that The Cuphead Show, while consisting of several standalone story arcs, does have storylines that carry over for multiple episodes, with the outcomes of these episodes often brought back up and continued in future episodes in some manner. In the case of Season 1, this largely revolves around Cuphead and Mugman's dealing with The Devil, who is furiously attempting to claim the very soul of Cuphead after the brothers swindled him in his own game. With this core premise, we're introduced to various other Cuphead characters, such as King Dice, who alike in the game, is a trusted assistant of The Devil and has a run in with the brothers, except this time during one of his live broadcasted game shows. If you've played Cuphead, you'll know that the storyline doesn't see King Dice introduced this way, and that is the case for a lot of the characters.
Sentient vegetables, The Root Pack drop in for an episode full of chaos, and so do frog boxers, Ribby and Croaks. All of these characters find themselves at odds with the brothers, who end up having to deal with them in a traditional wacky and daft cartoon way, and while each character doesn't get all that much screen time (bar the brothers, their caretaker Elder Kettle, and The Devil), it does provide a nice narrative development for them and gives some colour to each of the bosses we've come across at some point in the game.
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It's worth noting that in this first season, only a few of the many characters in the game make an appearance. If you're expecting a linear adaptation of Cuphead's journey in-game you'll be sorely mistaken. For example, despite being one of the earliest bosses, Goopy Le Grande has yet to be introduced in animated form. But, this isn't a weak point as to make a coherent story some liberties have had to be taken, and creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer have done an ample job of making a storyline that you want to follow into the next episode.
And this bolstered by the charismatic duo that is Cuphead and Mugman, each of whom are voiced by Tru Valentino and Frank Todaro respectively. The pair are energetic, hilarious, and everything you'd want from two trouble-making young brothers. They bounce off each perfectly, with Cuphead's headstrong and fearless nature polarising Mugman's usually more concerned and cowardly core. They really work in harmony, which is ideal since the premise of this series asks that both get up to all sorts of bizarre and weird antics, such as travelling to a ruthlessly dangerous island packed with all kinds of environmental hazards, or rather simply taking a shortcut home through a graveyard where they are haunted and tormented by a group of ghosts and ghouls. For a universally-rated production, alike 1930s cartoons of old, The Cuphead Show really doesn't hesitate in attempting to scare the socks off its younger viewers.
As the first season only consists of 12 episodes, each anywhere between 12-15 minutes in length, there's not a whole lot of The Cuphead Show to chew through right now. But what is there is brilliantly animated, delightfully fun, and super easy to consume, to the point where you can quite comfortably bash out all 12 episodes in one seamless viewing session. We'll have to see whether this same level of entertainment can be upheld as the narrative is continued in future seasons, but for the time being, this is a fantastic way to delve into the world of Cuphead without fearing you'll throw your controller out the window after being smoked by Beppi the Clown, Cala Maria, or pretty much any of the bosses in the game for the hundredth time.